New life in the American Church?

In the first favorable sign recently in the continuing scandal involving homosexual predators among the Roman Catholic clergy, eight American bishops have called on their brethren to convene a plenary council to discuss the “root causes” of the current crisis.

This would be the first American plenary council in more than 100 years. According to the letter sent by the eight bishops, the goals for this one would include:

“Solemnly receiving the authentic teaching of the Second Vatican Council…on the identity, life and ministry of bishops and priests; on matters of sexual morality in general (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Humanae Vitae, Veritatis Splendor, and Familiaris Consortio); [and] on celibate chastity as an authentic form of human sexuality renewed by grace and a share in Christ’s own spousal love for His Church.”

“Giving unequivocal endorsement and normative force to the means outlined in the documents of the Council…to foster the acts of virtue required of pastors and the means needed to achieve those virtues, especially celibate chastity (e.g., daily celebration of the Mass, frequent Confession, daily meditation, regular acts of asceticism, obedient submission to Church teaching and discipline, simplicity of life).”

“Confirming the bishops in the authoritative exercise of our ministry for the health and well being of the church, and strengthening our coworkers in the Presbyterate in their ministry of teaching the Gospel, especially in regard to sexual morality, so that we can give support to the lay faithful in responding to their call to holiness.”

Deal Hudson, the publisher of Crisis magazine, is the source of the letter. He says he can’t reveal the names of the authors, but the list is surprising and represents the entire theological and political spectrum of the American Church.

Sounds a bit like pie in the sky, given the impression one sometimes gets of the American bishops, but they’ve had a shock and sometimes people do wake up. An interesting feature of the letter, given recent discussions on VFR, is that it appeals solely to the documents of Vatican II and subsequent papal pronouncements. Apparently those constitute the common ground to which appeal can now be made.

19 thoughts on “New life in the American Church?”

  1. That large numbers of
    That large numbers of humanity continue to view the American Catholic Church as a legitimate arm of Christendom is puzzling. Considering its refusal to purge the priesthood of homosexuals and pedophiles, its effective departure from expository preaching and normative doctrine, as well as the recent announcement by the U.S. Catholic bishops to forgo evangelization of Jews, one can only logically conclude that the ‘Church’ has abandoned Jesus Christ and divine revelation as contained in the Scriptures. Not only is the Catholic hierarchy rejecting both the totality of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the conversion experience of first century Jewish Christians Paul, Peter, Stephen, Matthew and John, but the papal system is also cementing the great divide between orthodox Christianity and the various heretical apostasies which no doubt includes modern Roman Catholicism.

    In a total misunderstanding of Scripture, American bishops fallaciously deduced that “…campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church.” Their syllogistic reasoning is as follows: 1) God has established an eternal covenantal relationship with the Jewish people; 2) Jews have been given a divine mission ‘to witness to God’s faithful love’; conclusion, Christian witnessing to Jews is a mistaken venture. Of course, it helps that Catholics grant human traditions and whimsical magisterial edicts equity with God’s written Word, allowing Rome to periodically issue amendments to previously infallible maxims.

    After negotiating with Conservative and Reform rabbis, the bishops determined that Jews were not in need of salvation through acceptance of Christ as Savior. The brazen decision contradicts centuries of Catholic tradition and Scripture long accepted as authoritative, which makes the decision all the more puzzling.

    Consider first the church’s newfangled position that the Abrahamic covenant precludes the Jews of their need for salvation. While no Scriptural justification for the new position is forthcoming, they nonetheless decided to strike at the legitimacy of passages such as John 3:16, Romans 3:23-30 and Romans 9, segments which prescribes salvation for both Jew and Gentile alike.

    The implications of this negation of Scripture are immense. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus (later changed to Paul) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) was unnecessary and ultimately invalid. Logically, Jesus Christ lied to Saul, seeing as there was no real need to take the Gospel to Jews, least of all for Saul, himself, to convert. Moreover, Peter’s exposition of the Gospel in Acts 4 was also alarmist and misguided, as was Peter and John’s healing of and preaching to Jews in Acts 3. Jesus Christ lied to Peter in Acts 10 when it was revealed to Peter that both dietary and spiritual prohibitions formerly observed were no longer valid as a barrier to reaching others with the Gospel.

    Perhaps most devastating, though, is the effect this pronouncement has on Catholicism’s ‘triad’ of authority: Scripture, apostolic tradition, and the teaching office of the church (magisterium). Implications of this authority system include: the Petrine doctrine (primacy of Peter), apostolic succession, papal supremacy and infallibility, and, as it relates to Scripture, the acceptance of the Apocrypha.

    Whether they know it or not, the bishops’ edict undermines this entire authoritative structure, however! Indeed, the apostles, including the Jewish Peter whom Catholics venerate as Christ’s vicar on earth, subscribed to Christ’s dying for all mankind, Jews and Gentiles. Accordingly, if we accept this latest installment of arbitrary Catholic dictum, the Catholic Church is built on a misguided Jewish ‘convert’. Of course, this presupposes that the Petrine doctrine is truth, a belief soundly rejected by evangelicals. But that’s an entirely different debate.

    Unless the Catholic Church cleanses itself internally, erasing the stench of liberalism and its accompanying heresies, evangelical Christians have every reason to distance ourselves from Rome’s errant ways and attempts to affix Christendom under one broad umbrella.

  2. The bad American Catholic
    The bad American Catholic Bishops are not identical to the Roman Catholic Church, Who is as pristine, faithful, and authentic as She always was and always will be. The American Bishops who were bad, on the whole, are unfaithful and perhaps hereticalmembers of this Church, who, by their sins, have removed themselves from Her grace.

    Your comment that evangelicals are justified in keeping their distance from Rome, that is, in remaining outside the True Church, is ridiculous. There is no justification for error! There is never any reason to leave the Roman Catholic Church, because She is the only Bride of Christ. And there is every reason to remain within Her, and return to Her, at this time. As she is being crucified from within and without, the place Our Lord wants us to be is with Her on Golgatha with St. John, Mary of Clopas, and the Mother of God.

    Evangelicals and other protestants can look condescendingly from the crowd all they want, but this is not pleasing to Our Lord.

  3. None of this is new. One
    None of this is new. One basic difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Protestants believe that human corruption justifies rebellion against those human institutions that derive authority from God. It is in that sense that liberalism and protestantism converge: in the notion that human corruption justifies rebellion against divinely authorized institutions. The justification seems to be a variation on some argument from perfection. But God never promised that the human authorities He placed over you would be perfect; He just commanded your obedience to them.

    The history of the Arian heresy is instructional here, for anyone who is interested in actually understanding how Catholics can remain faithful in the face of manifest corruption. Certainly running into the arms of those who started the liberal rebellion in the first place is not the answer for any serious Catholic.

  4. I agree with Mr. Brewer, by
    I agree with Mr. Brewer, by the way, that the pronouncement about evangelizing Jews is, if taken as doctrine and if interpreted as he has interpreted it, utterly heretical. I also agree that to NOT interpret the non-binding musings of some American bishops in that way (with the exception of the ludicrous notion that it was an authoritative doctrinal statement) requires Clintonesque parsing. I expect Mr. Brewer and I would agree on a great deal that we would not share in common with the bishops who wrote the document. The question, however, is what sort of thing could theoretically justify outright rebellion; does the postulation of such a state of affairs in itself reflect a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit that guides the Church; and to what extent does our current state of affairs meet that requirement. Anyone who has not yet discovered the meaning of the word “sedevacantist” and contemplated it in all of its ramifications with a full understanding of Church history and teaching has not yet seriously considered those questions.

  5. I absolutely agree with
    I absolutely agree with Matt’s first comment, ‘It is in that sense that liberalism and protestantism converge: in the notion that human corruption justifies rebellion against divinely authorized institutions.’

    Indeed, it was in Luther’s pride that he rebelled against the Holy Catholic Church, which was founded by the Son of God.

  6. The other side of the
    The other side of the equivocation is the denial of Tradition, Petrine doctrine, and “give unto Caesar”. Rather than being a rebel against (partly human and therefore always plagued by the Mystery of Iniquity) divinely commissioned institutions one can simply claim that there are no divinely commissioned institutions. This also converges with liberalism: if there are no divinely commissioned institutions then I personally become the measure of all things.

  7. The debate over rebellion
    The debate over rebellion against authority, whther it is legitimate in light of Scripture or whether it is not is certainly debatable. However, I think the weight of Scripture falls on the side of exposing corrupt authority, either temporal or in the Church.

    When teachings handed down from a particular sect are squarely opposed to Scripture, liberals and even some conservatives regard as divisive those Christians who speak out against such inbiblical musings. BUt the Word of God blatantly instructs Christians to guard the purity of Scripture. Recall passages like 1 Tim 1:18-19; 6:20; 2 Timothy 4:2-5.

    We read in Acts 20 and 2nd Peter 2 that false teachers within the church will arise, peddling destructive heresies, distortions of the truth and destroying the faith of some. These teachings certainly promise that these false teachers come from both inside and outside the Body of Christ.

    As with this apostasy of the American Bishops, I am simply testing all things as 1 Thes. 5:21 says to do. Recall that in Acts 17:11 the Berean believers examined the words of Paul to determine his veracity.

    Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole Word of God, warning others of false teachers, as Acts 20:26-28 and Ezekiel 33:7-9; 34:1-10 instructs.

    This isn’t a suggestion but rather divine mandate, and should whoever the offender is not repent, we have the obligation to espose them before the church (1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17-18; 4:14-15; 3 John 9-10)

    The Catholic bishops are compromising on one of the essential doctrines of orthrodox Christianity and to keep mum on the subject would be a sin. Indeed, you allege that this is American Catholic decision and not sanctioned by Rome. However, in 1967 during the Second Vatican Council, the Church said as much, that Jews were not to be witnessed to. Moreover, it stretches the Church’s credibility and Rome’s authority to believe Rome would sit idly by as th American Catholics rendered null and void the atoning work of Christ. Rome certainly knew about it, and if by chance they didn’t, their silence in rebuking the American bishops since last week’s pronouncement wreaks of duplicity.

  8. I think Mr. Brewer may be
    I think Mr. Brewer may be exaggerating what that one very confused and confusing published document, with the word “Reflections” initiating its very title, purports to be:

    Furthermore, he seems to be under the impression that Catholics are sworn to silence and abject servitute to clerics, contra both Sacred Scripture and Tradition. In that he is simply mistaken. I personally have grave reservations about John Paul II’s phenomenalist approach to Thomism, and I am willing to explain why to anyone with a hope of understanding, just as an example.

    As to the status of Vatican II and its actual authoritative pronouncements, I have already indicated that the history of the Arian heresy is instructive, whether one views Vatican II as legitmate or not. Mr. Brewer has not referenced any specific authoritative Vatican II document or authoritative encyclicals with respect to evangelization of Jews, so it is difficult to assess precisely what is troubling him there. But lets assume for the sake of argument that the situation is far worse then Mr. Brewer supposes: for example, suppose just for the sake of argument that John Paul II is personally a closet Satanist bent on destroying Christianity by promulgating heresy. Even during the most radical circumstance of rampant heresy among clerics of all ranks the most one might attempt to justify is sedevacantism. In that sort of circumstance one would want to be utterly certain of one’s own prayerful humility and personal holiness. None of what Mr. Brewer (or anyone, ever, to my knowledge) has stated justifies actual deliberate separation from the Church.

    Specifically the history of the Arian heresy (and really of all the early Christological heresies) is instructive in that even actual radical doctrinal conflicts do not justify open rebellion. Nor do they require a passive silent body of orthodox faithful. Mr Brewer has not indicated that he sees any possibilities for an orthodox Christian other than open rebellion or prayerful silence. Perhaps he does see other possibilities and has simply not stated as much.

  9. Repudiation is quite
    Repudiation is quite different from open rebellion. That is what I am doing.

    Arian’s heresy as really promulgated at the Council of Nicea was indeed a excellent example of the doctrinal rebuke I am attempting to undertake here. Arius was in attendance, at the command of the Emperor, along with a few supporters. Most notable of these were two Egyptian bishops, Theonas and Secundus, as well as Eusebius of Nicomedia. This group represented the viewpoint that Christ was of a different substance (Greek: heteroousios) than the Father, that is, that He is a creature. Obviously, this was heresy.

    The determinants at Nicea were forced to see that they needed to use a term that could not be misunderstood or manipulated by the Arians, that would clearly differentiate between a belief in the full deity of Christ and all those positions that would compromise that belief. Therefore, they focused on the term homoousios as being completely antithetical to the Arian position, and at the same time reflective of the scriptural truth that Jesus Christ is not a creature, but is fully God, incarnate deity.

    They were not compromising the existence of three Persons, but were instead safeguarding the full deity of the Persons, and in particular, the Son. The resulting creed, signed by all but Arius and two bishops, was quite clear in its position:

    “We believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance (homoousios) with the Father, through Whom all things were made….”

    Now consider this Matt: The creed also contained the “anathema” (i.e., condemnation) for those who rejected these truths, and for the first time, such anathemas carried with them civil repercussions. Arius and some of his followers were banished, even though for a short time. This set a precedent that eventually would have tremendous impact on culture and church, but it is also a separate issue from the theological proclamation of the council. Nicea was not creating some new doctrine, some new belief, but clearly, explicitly, defining truth against error.

    Hence, there is certainly precendent for rebuking and even banishing heretics, such as even the American Catholic Bishops.

    Heresy certainly derives from Satan, and so while Rome has not signed off on the Bishops’ announcement, the Vatican’s silence speaks volumes and suggests tacit agreement.

    Furthermore, what the Catholic church since Vatican II has ignored is that when a religion’s view of God (or Ultimate Reality) and salvation is fundamentally false, then it must be considered a false religion, no matter what truth it may teach on ethics or other matters. Judaism falls into this category of false religions because it rejects Christ.

    If taken to its logical conclusion, Vatican II and even Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Missio (1991) portend that religious dialogue with members of other religions is to replace actual missionary efforts.

    Paul repudiates Catholicism’s descent into apostasy in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

    This is one of many verses that reveals the heresy of the Roman Catholic Church and the two covenant theory.

  10. I scoured the first part of
    I scoured the first part of Mr. Brewer’s comment for something to disagree with and found nothing. In fact certain heretical acts can result in automatic excommunication (which as a formal matter isolates the heretic from the sacraments). Archibishop Lefevbre experienced this recently.

    The notion that the Vatican should pronounce on every theological comment that any Bishop ever makes is more than a little unreasonable. The idea that this is all taking place in a vacuum of complete submissive silence is, again, simply uninformed. For example:

    as a few among thousands.

    Mr. Brewer’s characterization of what John Paul II call’s “The Church of Mary”—that is, religions like protestantism not in explicit communion with Christ’s Church—can most charitably be interpreted as simplistic and uninformed.

    I have grave problems with John Paul II’s phenomenological discursive approach precisely because it encourages errors like the one being made—no doubt in good faith—by Mr. Brewer. Once he has explained in detail the categorical difference between mission and dialogue perhaps we can understand how the use of the word “dialogue” in Vatican II as a prudential pastoral emphasis entails an objective change in the deposit of faith. Clearly the introduction of “one in being with the Father” at the Nicene counsel, which dispute actually was about specifically the deposit of faith rather than the pastoral emphasis of the evangelical commission, doesn’t give him any trouble. So I think there must be a confusion of criteria going on.

    Vatican II under its own representation, like the counsel of Nicea, changed no doctrines whatsoever. If it did, it would automatically invalidate itself (and that might justify a sedevacantist in taking that position). But Mr. Brewer has certainly not made the case simply by quoting Paul against an obscure document that does not pretend to be even a coherent finished theological statement, let alone part of the deposit of faith.

  11. In the encyclical that Mr.
    In the encyclical that Mr. Brewer references, John Paul II says, among other things:

    “In reply to the Jewish religious authorities who question the apostles about the healing of the lame man, Peter says: “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well…. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12). This statement, which was made to the Sanhedrin, has a universal value, since for all people-Jews and Gentiles alike – salvation can only come from Jesus Christ.”

    But perhaps for Mr. Brewer this is the objectionable part:

    “The speeches in Lystra and Athens (cf. Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31) are acknowledged as models for the evangelization of the Gentiles. In these speeches Paul enters into ‘dialogue’ with the cultural and religious values of different peoples. To the Lycaonians, who practiced a cosmic religion, he speaks of religious experiences related to the cosmos. With the Greeks he discusses philosophy and quotes their own poets (cf. Acts 17:18, 26-28). The God whom Paul wishes to reveal is already present in their lives; indeed, this God has created them and mysteriously guides nations and history. But if they are to recognize the true God, they must abandon the false gods which they themselves have made and open themselves to the One whom God has sent to remedy their ignorance and satisfy the longings of their hearts. These are speeches which offer an example of the inculturation of the Gospel.”

    But it is tough to see it as being heretical. In fact it is framed as a response to the question which preceded it:

    “Nevertheless, also as a result of the changes which have taken place in modern times and the spread of new theological ideas, some people wonder: Is missionary work among non-Christians still relevant? Has it not been replaced by inter-religious dialogue? Is not human development an adequate goal of the Church’s mission? Does not respect for conscience and for freedom exclude all efforts at conversion? Is it not possible to attain salvation in any religion? Why then should there be missionary activity?”

    If anything, John Paul II seems to be emphasizing that the Christian evangelical mission has not changed. It is hard to see what Mr. Brewer finds specifically to disagree with in this encyclical.

  12. Don’t you think Matt, that
    Don’t you think Matt, that the Vatican has an obligation to speak out about something so key as that issued by the American bishops? We’re talking about the invalidation of two thousand years of Scriptural mandate. If the Vatican should speak out about anything it should be this.

  13. No. Nothing heretical was
    No. Nothing heretical was being presented as being ‘of faith’. In fact nothing at all was presented as being ‘of faith’. Mr. Brewer seems to think that it is the Vatican’s job to run around and shout down every stupid ecclesial voice, even when those ecclesial voices are explicitly “reflecting” on personal opinions. On what precisely does he base this cry for papal tyranny?

  14. Matt, you’re parsing words
    Matt, you’re parsing words here now. Semantics aside, what the American bishops issued was a repudiation of doctrine accepted for centuries. That is the point.

    You can retrieve cyclicals from Pope John Paul dating back some time, but that is really irrelevant. He needs to condemn this act of capriciousness carried out by his heretical underlings.

    I don’t see how this is meeting with so much resistance from you. This is a major, core theological doctrine, not some environmental or social justice pronouncement. In other words, the Pope should speak out against this, assuming he disagrees with it.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the Pope disagrees with it, since the bishops speak goes against the Word of God, rendering their stupor as heretical.

  15. Nonsense. For all Mr.
    Nonsense. For all Mr. Brewer knows, the published clarification of that document’s status (I provided the link earlier) was the result of a behind-the-scenes bitch-slapping by the Vatican.

    Furthermore, I did not “retrieve the encyclical.” I simply quoted from the encyclical that Mr. Brewer himself referenced as an example of the Pope’s supposed heresy. Mr Brewer stated that the logical conclusion of _Redemptoris Missio_ is “that religious dialogue with members of other religions is to replace actual missionary efforts” (Mr. Brewer’s own words), but when confronted with the actual text and the fact that it does no such thing he chides me for bringing it up; as if it were me who brought it up in the first place.

    I agree that in all likelihood any number of, and perhaps the majority of, the American Bishops hold and promulgate heretical beliefs. Even if we assume out of Christian charity that this is not the case, it is clear that the majority are utterly incompetent, and that their ass-covering public-relations-focused politically correct orientation is beneath contempt. I furthermore agree that the document that has Mr. Brewer in such a tizzy certainly looks heretical as a prima facie matter, although Mr. Brewer still seems to have missed the fact that it was expressly published as not-fully-formed personal opinions for further discussion rather than proclaimed ex cathedra as clarified doctrine.

    That is somewhat analogous to (but far less extreme than) the Arian/Nicene period: but Mr. Brewer doesn’t seem to have any problem with Catholics having remained faithful rather than rebelling in protestant schism during that period.

    In summary, Mr. Brewer’s initial lament that “one can only logically conclude that the ‘Church’ has abandoned Jesus Christ and divine revelation as contained in the Scriptures” is, in the most charitable possible interpretation, deeply ignorant of both the facts and of basic logic.

    Finally, I might respectfully suggest that while parsing words is by no means the only important aspect of rational discourse it is most certainly a necessary one.

  16. Matt, again, you miss the
    Matt, again, you miss the most important aspects of the Pope’s opus. Consider this import from said:

    “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

    For this reason the Council, after affirming the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, went on to declare that “this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.”(19)

    The first sentence expressing his belief that salvation is offerred to others besides those who accept Christ is damning enough. He later heads off into another goofy direction with talk a mysterious grace that offers salvation to those who haven’t heard the Gospel. He offers no Scriptural basis for this belief, and indeed, I think it’s contrived rather than legitimately deduced from the Word.

    Read further and you find the Pope relating an earlier correspondence with the Asian Bishops in which he states, “I recently wrote to the bishops of Asia: “Although the Church gladly acknowledges whatever is true and holy in the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as a reflection of that truth which enlightens all people, this does not lessen her duty and resolve to proclaim without fail Jesus Christ who is ‘the way, and the truth and the life.’…The fact that the followers of other religions can receive God’s grace and be saved by Christ apart from the ordinary means which he has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and baptism which God wills for all people.”(100) Indeed Christ himself “while expressly insisting on the need for faith and baptism, at the same time confirmed the need for the Church, into which people enter through Baptism as through a door.” (101) Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation.(102)

    Matt, the Pope here is expressly saying that there is salvation besides that offered by Christ. So no matter the orthodox posturing in other portions of the REDEMPTORIS MISSIO, the Pope contradicts himself here, placating other religions with unscriptural compromise.

    In light of this, the quotes you provide are rendered meaningless. if a non-believer read this from the Pope, I doubt he would feel the need to abandon Islam or Buddhism for Jesus Christ. After all, the Pope says that all religions have kernels of truth and even have touches of that ‘mysterious grace’ he pulls out of nowhere.

  17. Mr. Brewer apparently thinks
    Mr. Brewer apparently thinks that he has discovered a new and novel modern innovation in the problem of salvation for the unevangelized (e.g. foreign natives, old testament prophets, MTV dancers, etc). I suppose the old testament prophets and sixth century Samoans are all in Hell.

    No doubt this will be dismissed as irrelvant parsing. I am at this point unconvinced that there is any possibility of productive discussion: for Mr. Brewer the Pope is the whore of babylon and that is that.

  18. If one is encountering this
    If one is encountering this basic theological problem for the first time, and one is further willing to suspend belief that the Catholic Church is the whore of babylon long enough to make a genuine inquiry, the following might be more easy to understand than an encyclical intended for advanced theologians:


Leave a Comment